It wasn’t quite the happy reunion anticipated as the Burger King, followed by In-N-Out and Portillo, entered Prince Carl’s camp. Even the recent defeat of Jersey Mike’s flank attack was met with subdued celebration. After everything that had happened in the past several days, Wendy’s capture preserved the frustrating stalemate between the two armies. While the Burger King and In-N-Out joined Prince Carl, Colonel Sanders, Popeye, and Asiago in the command tent, Portillo, with Sonic at his heels, sought out his old friends.
He found them all sitting silently around a camp fire: Baskin, Robin, Papa John, Arby, McDonald, Big Mac, and Jimmy John. Sonic’s joyous barking roused them from their gloomy vigil. For a moment, the dark mood lifted as Baskin and Robin embraced Portillo, Arby slapped him on the back, and Jimmy John happily and repeatedly shouted “I’m Jimmy John!”
After catching up on each other’s stories, the group sat around by the fire once more. Sonic found a comfortable spot on Robin’s lap and soon began snoring softly.
“So,” said Portillo, hesitant to ask the question, but wanting to know the answer, “how did Wendy get captured?”
“We believe,” replied Papa John with a sigh, “that someone in this camp was under Little Caesar’s employ.”
“The guard at her tent hasn’t been seen since Wendy’s disappearance,” Big Mac added. “We think it might have been him.”
“Who was this guard? How did he manage to sneak in like this?”
“All we really know for certain,” said Baskin, “is that his name is Dunkin and he is a local baker. We don’t know how he managed to get himself chosen to be Wendy’s guard.”
“I reckon he was just in the right place at the right time when Prince Carl was lookin’ for volunteers,” Arby added. “Besides, his only job was to keep Wendy in the tent. It don’t take a highly trained soldier to stand by an entrance.”
“But didn’t anyone notice Wendy being…?”
“Look, boyo,” McDonald cut in, slightly exasperated, “things were pretty riled here in camp when Jersey Mike made his move to our left. People were running everywhere. It was chaos for a while. If we had any notion at the time that it was all a ruse…”
“I’m sorry,” said Portillo quickly, holding up his hands. “I wasn’t accusin’ anyone of anything! It’s just, well…you know.”
McDonald flashed a sad smile.
“Aye boy, aye, I know. I reckon we’re all a’feelin’ a bit on edge at the moment.”
There was a moment of silence, before Portillo spoke again.
“So what do we do?”
“What can we do?” Robin asked as she absent-mindedly stroked the sleeping Sonic. “Little Caesar was fooled once by a rescue attempt. He won’t be fooled again.”
Everyone fell silent once more, deep in their own thoughts as they listened to the cheering popping and cracking of the fire.
Suddenly, Jimmy John stood up.
“My friend Wendy is in trouble,” he announced with a determined look in his slightly-crossed eyes. “I will go he’p her.” With that, he stalked off. The others exchanged surprised glances.
“What does he mean he’s going to help her?” Portillo directed his question to McDonald and Big Mac. “What is he planning to do?” Both men shrugged in bemusement.
“I can’t say for sure,” McDonald said. “I’ve never actually known him have a plan before.”
“We do have a deal, right?” Dunkin asked. He and Krispin had dropped in at Little Caesar’s command tent, where the pizza dictator and Jersey Mike were seated at the table busily planning their next move. In the middle of the tent, Wendy also sat, still tied to her chair and gagged.
“What?” Little Caesar asked distractedly, looking up from a large map.
“Our deal? We bring the girl and you help us start up a bakery franchise?”
“Of course we have a deal,” Little Caesar said, glancing back down at the map. “I am a man of my word after all.”
“Ah, so you’re the guys who snatched the girl, huh?” Asked Jersey Mike, jerking his thumb toward the squirming Wendy. “Bet she was a handful.”
“Actually,” said Krispin, “she slept like a baby the whole time.”
“And,” Mike continued, turning to Little Caesar, “why didn’t you tell me you had these guys hidin’ out in Prince Carl’s camp?”
“What can I say?” Mumbled Little Caesar. “I am full of surprises.”
“We met Little Caesar a while ago,” Dunkin spoke up. “He was taking over a pizza parlor next door to our bakery. Krispie and I…”
“Krispin!” Krispin hissed.
“Krispin and I were rather interested in Little Caesar’s business strategy. We agreed to lend him our services in exchange for his help in expanding our business. When he found out that Prince Carl was gathering an army in Hardeeshire, it was his idea to plant us in their camp and to await further instructions.”
“When we got word that the boss wanted Wendy,” Krispin continued, “Dunkin volunteered to be her guard while I got a wagon ready. One military distraction, one drugged donut, and here we are!”
“You guys,” Jersey Mike grinned and pointed a finger at them, “you guys are all right!”
“Thanks!” Dunkin beamed.
“So what’s the plan now, L.C.?” Asked Jersey Mike. Little Caesar placed a finger on the map, indicating an island some distance from the shores of Dryvthru.
“We sail for the island of Quiznos and set up our operations there. It’s a small place and we’ll have it under our control in no time. Then we bide our time until we can launch another attack on Dryvthru.”
“And how ‘bout this little ball of fire?” Jersey Mike gestured to Wendy who scowled and tried to cuss him out through her gag.
“She comes with us. Once we are safely established on Quiznos, we’ll permit her to return.”
Wendy rocked in her chair and attempted to cuss out Little Caesar.
“Or we can do everyone a favor and just set her adrift on a raft.”
The sun was beginning its descent when Little Caesar, along with Smashburger, stepped onto the battlefield.
“Sound the trumpet,” Little Caesar commanded, gesturing to the instrument in Smashburger’s huge hand. Obediently, the large man put the trumpet to his lips and blew. The noise that he produced was similar to that of a goose being strangled.
“Good heavens!” Cried Little Caesar, turning to Smashburger in dismay. “Is that the best you can do?”
Smashburger’s next effort sounded like a dying moose.
“I selected you because I thought you had the biggest set of lungs in camp. Are you not able to produce one clear note?”
“So you’ve said. Can you at least whistle?” Smashburger put two fingers in his mouth and gave off an ear-piercing HWEEEEET! Little Caesar clapped his hands to his ears.
“Hey youse guys over dere!” Smashburger bellowed toward Prince Carl’s camp. “Listen up! Da boss got somethin’ ta say.”
“Uh yes, thank you Smashburger,” said Little Caesar, dropping his hands from his ringing ears.
“Hey, no problem.”
By this time, the Burger King and Prince Carl had stepped to the front of their lines.
“Is all the noise you’re making an indication that you wish to announce your demands?” The Burger King called out dryly.
“Yes,” replied Little Caesar, puffing out his chest in an attempt to look authoritative, “and my demands are these…”
“So did they agree to everything?” Asked Dunkin.
Night had fallen and Jersey Mike, Dunkin, and Krispin were sitting around a small campfire outside of the command tent when Little Caesar returned.
“They wanted some time to consider the proposal,” replied Little Caesar, finding a vacant camp stool and taking a seat.
“What’s to consider?” Krispin asked.
“Nothing, really. I believe that they are stalling until they can come up with some sort of brilliant rescue plan.”
“Yeah,” Jersey Mike snorted, “good luck with that one.”
Having learned his lesson, Little Caesar had recently relocated his command tent to the center of the army camp. Anyone wishing to rescue Wendy would first have to penetrate through a ring of extremely vigilant and very hostile soldiers.
“I gave them one hour to make a decision,” said Little Caesar. “I promise you that we’ll be sailing to Quiznos before morning.” The others nodded in satisfaction.
At first, none of the four paid any attention to the commotion occurring at the northern end of camp. Some of Jersey Mike’s men were gathering and pointing out into the darkness. Something was out there, and whatever it was, they were prepared to fight it.
Suddenly, a single torch flared to life. The men could make out only a silhouette holding the torch; a tall, thin silhouette. The mysterious person stood unmoving and silent. More and more men were adding to the growing group. Some shouted out insults and threats, but the figure was unresponsive. Finally, Little Caesar, Jersey Mike, Dunkin and Krispin pushed their way to the front of the crowd.
“Is this supposed to be the rescue attempt?” Scoffed Jersey Mike. “Gimmie a break!”
“If your plans were to sneak in and burn down the camp,” Little Caesar called out to the stranger, “I’m afraid that you have failed quite badly.”
“Hello,” the torch-bearer spoke at last. “I’m Jimmy John!”
“Who the devil are…?” Little Caesar began to say.
Just then, Jimmy John lifted his torch high. He kept it up for a long moment, then swept it down in a fiery arc. Suddenly, there was rustling and movement in the darkness around him. Several black shapes rose into the night sky; then dozens; then scores. Soon the air was full of flapping creatures. Dramatically, Jimmy John raised the torch high and pointed at the camp and the now-anxious group of men.
“Go,” he said.
From inside the command tent, Wendy heard distant, muffled noises. She also heard Little Caesar and his henchmen responding to the commotion and moving away from their campfire. If ever there was a time to escape, she thought, now was the time. With her fingers, she awkwardly scrabbled at the knot binding her wrists together behind the back of the chair.
The noise outside slowly began to change. It seemed to be growing louder. She continued to work feverishly at her knot. She was just able to grip a portion of it with her fingertips.
Now she heard shouting and people running. There was also another noise Wendy couldn’t identify, a sort of a roaring sound, and it was coming closer.
The knot started to work loose.
Now people, many people, were rushing past her tent. She couldn’t quite make out what they were yelling about because the roaring, rushing sound was growing even louder. Was it some sort of freak wind storm? She didn’t want to stick around to find out.
Finally, the ropes around Wendy’s wrists fell away. She ripped the gag out of her mouth, spat, then began to work on the ropes around her waist.
Wendy sat bolt upright. Something had hit the back of the tent.
What was going on?
Then Wendy heard the sounds of ripping canvas. She screamed and covered her head as the command tent was instantly shredded all about her. Furniture tumbled and splintered. The noise was unbearable. Wendy covered her ears, closed her eyes and continued screaming. At least she thought she was screaming; she couldn’t hear.
Then it was over, and all was silent.
Well, not entirely silent. She could hear movement around her. Wendy slowly opened her eyes and observed the carnage. She found herself in the middle of a darkened, ravaged camp. Not a tent remained standing. Every campfire had been extinguished. Supplies, gear, and dry-cleaned suits, still in their plastic coverings, were scattered about. A few people lay moaning over the grounds.
Then there were the chickens.
Before Wendy could even process what had just happened, a chicken waddled up to her, fluttered up, and landed in her lap. It cocked its head and peered at her with its beady eyes.
Wendy didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
So she did both.